So, what does it say about Birmingham voters that they re-elected Mayor Randall Woodfin in a landslide against seven other candidates, including a former mayor and a current Jefferson County commissioner?
Voters in Birmingham are happy with Woodfin. And as they should be. Woodfin certainly has his detractors – all politicians do. But it’s difficult to point to any particular area where Woodfin fell short in his initial term as mayor.
Take the COVID pandemic. Woodfin acted as the science said to act. He continues to weather the COVID storm, but he’s not passive. He and his capable staff are always looking for ways to mitigate the virus.
When Republicans through the state were fighting against mask mandates and such, Woodfin and the Birmingham City Council went their own way. Health officials said mask mandates would help lessen COVID’s impact, so Birmingham required a mask mandate.
That mask mandate covers any of the city’s public venues, like libraries, city office buildings, city-owned athletic facilities, and the bus service. It’s the smart decision to make.
Birmingham City Schools also require masks be worn by students, teachers, and other school officials. It makes sense, folks. Common sense – something too many Alabamians seem to lack.
I teach at UAB, and we have a mask mandate there as well. I have four, back-to-back English classes on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, and my students and I are masked throughout our classes. Indeed, I double mask, and lecture in that reality. (I do not have trouble breathing – or talking).
The Birmingham Promise scholarships started during Woodfin’s administration. That gives students in Birmingham City Schools an opportunity to attend public colleges and universities in Alabama tuition free for four years. Some of these students would never have been able to afford college without the program. I know, because I teach some of them. They are finestudents who only needed a chance to show what they could do post-high school.
Consider that against seven other candidates, Woodfin drew more than 64 percent of the vote (64.3 to be exact). His next opponent, County Commissioner Lashunda Scales managed only 20.8 percent. And former mayor William Bell, a paltry 9.1 percent. (Let’s hope Bell, who was a good mayor during his time, knows now that his time has passed).
Scales, meanwhile, ran a free race. Not that it didn’t cost her any campaign funds. Sure, it did, and she had them to spend. But she had nothing on the line politically. If she lost the mayor’s race – which she did devastatingly – she just returns to the commission and waits for the next political opportunity. Her term runs until 2022.
Waiting for political opportunity is what Scales does: Keep a lookout for something she can climb to, regardless of where she’s standing at the moment, as long as it doesn’t cost her the current position she’s in. We’ll see what she runs for when her commission term ends, but it behooves her voters (in District 1) to remember that she didn’t want to represent them any longer on the County Commission. So, she took a long shot at becoming mayor, and she got clobbered but lost nothing.
Woodfin may very well be building a dynasty. When he ran in 2017 for his first term against incumbent Mayor William Bell, he and Bell ended up in a runoff with 10 other candidates tossed to the side. In that runoff, Woodfin won 59 percent to 41 percent.
This time, Woodfin took more than 64 percent of the vote against seven other opponents. His dominance is growing. And with his smarts, his dedication to Birmingham, his campaign team (they knocked on 50,000 doors in 2017, Woodfin says, but 80,000 doors this time), and his City Hall staff, he is in a great position to continue to do great things for Birmingham.
I say: Congratulations, Mayor Woodfin. Keep up the good work for the Magic City.
Joey Kennedy, a Pulitzer Prize winner, writes a column every week for Alabama Political Reporter. Email: [email protected].